I’m training myself to accept failure. More than that, I’m trying to actively identify and deal with how I process failure emotionally. And that’s not easy for someone whose perfectionism (not a positive trait) and guilt can sometimes prevent me from actually getting things done at work or actively engaging with the world, e.g. if you don’t start, then you can’t fail, and if you can’t fail, then you can’t feel the pain - but you can’t succeed either. Basically, when I fail, it’s often because I can’t get out of my own way, and not because of external reasons. I’ve failed many, many times – many times: in business, in life, in love, in friends, in family. And I keep failing. And that will certainly continue.
This is a difficult job we do, and it is easy to get caught up in the everyday problems of legal practice. It's hard to keep one eye on the bigger picture while you deal with difficult cases. There are days when you think it might be easier to do this work with the support of a big firm environment.
"It is accepted, even by those who work within it, that Ontario’s family law system is utterly broken", writes Christie Blatchford in an article entitled, "Getting to the root of Ontario’s family law mess".
Agreed. I think you would be hard pressed finding anyone to disagree.
The vicious child custody battles and their shocking legal fees, and the endless losing battles against a former spouse who is seemingly impervious to reason are stories well known to everyone who works in the system. What is also shocking and frustrating, though, is that the blame for this is laid at the feet of lawyers, most of whom are not seeking to profit from the misery of others.
Do you want to hear the good news first or the bad news? What was that? You said the bad news? Here it goes...
Have you ever wanted to be a fly on the wall during someone else's therapy session? In this podcast, Susanne Gabriele and Andreas Kalogiannides admit to some personal and professional realizations and, despite being warned by their Inner Critics not to, they've decided to share them with you.
I am a young lawyer but the past year of managing my own law practice has confirmed what everyone already knows: justice is not only blind but it is also deaf and mute. I remember growing up with my mother telling me that if artful thieves exist and can target me, I must also be artful in protecting myself. I now somehow entangled this notion as a metaphor in the calculation of what it takes to achieve justice as a lawyer.
My colleagues inspire me on a daily basis. For this post, I’m taking my cue from one of them. Interestingly enough, this particular colleague tends to write about the people in our profession who inspire her. She chooses to amplify the strides that members of our profession make, perhaps because she recognizes that if one of us moves the profession forward, then we all have the potential to do so.
When I was working in Big Law, partners and associates sometimes looked at in-house counsel as those who couldn’t make it on Bay Street. In-house counsel were the weaker lawyers, the ones who couldn’t compete, or the ones who could not handle the long hours. Lawyers went in-house because they wanted work life balance. In fact, articles are written about women leaving Bay Street and entering in-house practice because they just can’t put in the hours anymore.
The other week, I was putting on a suit for work; I had a client meeting in the afternoon and I was speaking on a legal panel that evening, and I wanted to look sharp. But on this morning, I observed a new feeling that I hadn’t ever experienced: putting it on just didn’t feel right. This was a suit that I’d worn many times before; as I looked in the mirror to put on my tie, I felt that something was “off”. Like many feelings, it was hard to pin down at first. All I knew was that this was a new feeling and something wasn’t right. The feeling was of contradiction; conflict, even. After sitting with it for a while, I narrowed it down: I no longer needed to wear a suit in order to feel like, well…me.
Are lawyers suffering from an identity crisis? Is it an occupational hazard that our training has made us good at our jobs, but bad at life? In many instances, we are legally and ethically compelled to subvert our personal interests and identities in favour of our professional interests and obligations. As lawyers we are typically pessimistic, risk-averse, adversarial, argumentative, confrontational, overly opinionated, critical, over-achieving, “type-A” and blame-avoidant on our clients’ behalf. Admit nothing. Say nothing. Give nothing. Defend, defend, defend. Attack, parry, thrust. Are our personal identities slightly subverted to these interests or have they been completely eradicated?
How do we affect change in our professional environments when it comes to acknowledging and confronting emotional and mental health issues? At the OBA’s Opening Remarks Summit on this topic, Dr. Molyn Leszcz suggested that we need more than a bandaid solution. I’m inclined to agree with him.
Going through law school, I so often heard that it was a lawyer’s duty not to bring the justice system into disrepute. This always seemed like a hilarious statement to me. Personally, I come from a “modest means” background (that’s lawyers’ speak for saying I’m broke and from a trailer park). I grew up in a community where 30% of children live under the poverty line. A place where economic depression is the status quo and where honest hard-working people sell weed on top of working full-time and going to school so that they can pay their rent, feed their kids, and hope for a better future. Yet the system tries to put these people behind bars on mandatory minimums. I come from a place where domestic violence mixed with mental health and addictions issues are rampant. When you call the police on your drunk, mentally disturbed father who just pulled a shot gun on you, the system tells him that he has to complete one day of anger management, and that’s meant to solve the issue of ongoing domestic/substance abuse. When you come from a place like this, let’s just say you don’t have a lot of respect for authority. When you come from a place like this, saying don’t bring the justice system into disrepute just makes you laugh and think…was it ever reputable to begin with?
I read an interesting article recently in the Globe and Mail. High profile, professional women were interviewed to provide insight into the ongoing struggle for gender parity. Adrienne Clarkson was one of the interviewees, and her advice to younger women was never to believe in other people’s expectations of you; only believe in your expectations of yourself.
Some of you may know that a list of Toronto’s Most Beautiful Female Lawyers has been circulating around the Internet. I happened to be on that list, in addition to other colleagues I respect. Try to take a guess what my first thought was – it should have been something like this:
‘’… how horrible, how demeaning to me, what if my colleagues or Judges see this, this takes women back 100000 years!’’
But it wasn’t.
The Ghomeshi trial is all the rage right now in the criminal world, and rightly so. The case goes to the very heart of many issues that are commonly debated when discussing sexual assault. However, the issue mainly picked up by the media in this case is, “can we prove that consent was present at the time of the alleged assault given the complainant’s behavior following the incident?” More specifically, if the complainant “goes back” to the alleged perpetrator, is his/her credibility damaged to the point where they cannot be believed about the incident in question? Whether this is the case or not, it got me thinking about my own behaviour when I was met with workplace harassment and discrimination as a female lawyer.